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Monday, January 16, 2012

2011 Wrap-up in Pasadena

It's been a while but the garden in Pasadena is doing just fine. We remain self-sufficient vegetable wise as long as we don't have a football team visiting. I was not able to commit time to seeds and seedlings this year and therefore depended on nurseries for plantable seedlings. That worked just fine though some of the unusual plants, e.g. purple cauliflower, were missed. Our compost, enhanced by a friend's chickens, is incredible. I'm starting to put it in the beds now and I can hardly believe how rich and and flowing it is. We're harvesting beets, broccoli, cauliflower, rutabaga and chard now. Mark s experimenting with chard cuttings. We've found that the chard puts out runners, at least in this climate if they are left in the ground long enough. So, we figure that we can make chard grow year round. It's a thought. Given the incredibly growing friendly climate, this is actually possible.

Oh raspberries... We do have a vine growing. I hope we can keep it up to have an arbor over the gardening workbench. Unfortunately, the roots travel and we had raspberry canes in the middle of the tomatoes last summer. Mark was not thrilled. So, I cut them back both above and below ground. We'll see what happens next year.

I've included photos that capture some of the fun we had in 2011. One is the baby squirrel, Mooch. He and his sister came bouncing out of the garden one day last fall. Clearly they were hungry and danced around our feet. So, we captured them and started to nurse them along with milk in an eye dropper. Unfortunately, the female did not survive. She must have had some internal injuries. However, the male, Mooch, stuck it out. He even escaped the box we had him in. He wanted to take up residence behind the washing machine but Kim wouldn't let him. We put out nuts and figs for him and he lived on them for a couple weeks. Then he moved on. Though sometimes, when a squirrel is unusually close or communicative, we think it's Mooch come back to visit.

We harvested only one Hubbard squash. I don't know why the other blooms didn't make it but clearly the one we got was a hero. Mark resorted to a saw to cut it up. We thought that was funny. What would one normally do? But it was the only way we could figure.

Oh, and then in late November we had the amazing windstorm in Pasadena. We lost our tall fishtail palm in the front yard. We learned after its loss how many neighbors enjoyed its prehistoric look. Oh well... things change. The good news is that we're back to getting more sun on the front yard. So, I'll be trying to take advantage of that.

All for now!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

End of Summer/Southern Gardening

My "second" crops - zucchini, tomatoes, etc. - all died in the extreme heat we experienced in August and I don't have the heart to start another even though the weather is lovely now.  We are spending so much time in Ohio, at least a week a month, it's not really worth it to start something new.

So, on to Ohio gardening.  I guess we'll have to change the name to SOP, for Oberlin (although the "S" never actually contributed anything...Cathy).  I feel as though I understand the timing and climate up there better than I do here, although in fact I never really did much gardening.  I did have a kind of cool circular vegetable garden once with pie wedge-shaped sections for the different vegetables.  It did ok, as I recall.

There won't be much doing up there over the winter but I plan to be gardening in full force come spring.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bye Bye Bees

Happily, the yellow jackets seem to have decided that our stairway is not a hospitable enough place and they have left.  No burning required.  The hole they left behind is very interesting, with rough steep walls, only about 4" deep, and extremely hard. 

Makes me wonder if simply disturbing the nest - from a distance! - is sufficient to get them to move on?  Maybe no need to hire exterminators or burn gasoline (that can't be environmentally-friendly!)?  If there's a next time, I'll give it a try.  But I hope there's not a next time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yellow Jackets!

All I can say is, it's a good thing I'm not allergic to bees!

I inadvertently stepped on a yellow jacket nest on Sunday on my way down to the garden - must have been stung at least 15 times, most on my legs but also on my back and arms.  I jumped into the pool to get away from them!  It was unbelievably painful, and hurt for several hours.  By Monday the pain was mostly but not entirely gone, and it's been itching like mad since then.  Even today, Wednesday, my legs still itch, although it's finally subsiding.

Eastern yellow jacket
Dominique wants to burn them out.  I'm not in favor of this; after all, I stepped on their nest, it's not as if it was an unprovoked attack.  On the other hand, it's right on our stairs and what if someone looking at the house steps on it?  Or Sunny?  Still, burning them seems unnecessarily cruel.  Are there other options?

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's eating my Swiss chard?

I thought I was going to get a second crop of Swiss chard but something has been nibbling on it while I've been away.  I think it's rabbits.

And what's going on with the beans and zukes?  It looks like the deer are making their beds in them - seriously!  We had a nice meal of beans last night, though.  I hope more grow; 2 meals for 2 people is not a very good ROI.

The tomatoes and collards still haven't done anything, but the new beans and zukes are growing nicely.  Happily, it rained a fair amount last week so no need to water at the moment.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I love my garden but it only likes me

Zukes & beans
No collards
Some things are going well, others, not so much.  Got back from a week in Ohio and ran down to see how all my new seeds were doing.  Mixed results.  The beans and zucchini are going at it just like the first batch did.  Tomatoes - zip.  Not even one lousy seedling.  But the biggest disappointment is the collard greens - nothing!! 

Sunny & the new zucchini
Bean harvest
The first planting is yielding some nice fruit, however.  Some nice zucchini - and some monsters, of course.  How do they go from perfect to gigantic overnight?  And I had my first meal of beans; they were yummy.  Going to cut my volunteer rhubarb, too; maybe make a pie.

New bean plants with deer protection

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Second Planting

Having harvested all the garlic and shallots and many of the leeks (a good soup for dinner tonight!), I did a second a planting today.  Fool that I am, I planted the rest of the tomato seeds in the desperate hope that they will grow this time.  Fat chance. 
Tomatoes tucked in with the arugula  
Got another planting of zucchini and beans - hope I'm not overdoing it with the zucchini.  So easy to do. 

Beans with Dom's leeks

Zucchini with my leeks
And finally, the collard greens!  Was planning to do that awhile back but decided it was too early.  Just planted 3 rows so I can do successive plantings.  If you've never tried collards greens, you must - they are so amazingly delicious.  And incredibly good for you, antioxidants up the wazoo. 

Brought the chickens down with me, first time they've been in the lower garden.  It took them awhile to find the compost heap, but once there it was a banquet.  Chipmunk is better at finding worms, but Mimique is better at stealing and eating them.  I didn't know chickens could eat so many worms.  They had a blast and no hawks came by to spoil the fun.

Friday, June 24, 2011


A few weeks ago I signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) with Riverview Farms, who delivers boxes of vegetables once a week to a church just a few miles away.  It's something I've been meaning to do for awhile, but I didn't pick the best time to do it.  Naturally, the CSA is delivering the same kinds of vegetables that I'm already growing.  No idea what to do with all the lettuce I've got.  Although they did throw in a bunch of stuff that I don't have, like beets and cabbage, plus a mystery vegetable which turned out to be kohlrabi.

Not sure I'll sign up for another round (this one ends next week).  For one thing, I'm sure they're going to be delivering a ton of zucchini and I've got 6 big prolific plants in my garden.  For another, it's just too many vegetables for 2 people.  For a family it would be great, but even though we eat a lot of vegetables, we can't get through them all in a week.  I might sign up for the fall season since I probably won't have anything growing by then.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Garlic braiding

Okay, so Janet asked about garlic braiding. I do not have the perfect approach because I have not figured out how to do it so that the actual braid does not show. That being said let me show what I do. First, we are talking about soft neck garlics. After harvesting let them dry for a few days. At least that's what I do. Then I strip and clean the stalks to make them ready to braid. This process is a judgment call. Essentially, I strip off the dirty outer layers of skin to get the stalk down to a size that would work to braid. It just takes practice and experience to decide what works. The actual braiding is like french braiding for those who have done it.

Start with three bulbs and tie them together with string. Then add (remember french braiding) a bulb and blend its stalk with either the left or right one and overlap them both to the middle. Then add another and blend its stalk with the one from the opposite side as it's worked to the middle in typical braiding action.

The images show the view from the front where the bulbs are added and then the reverse side where you see the braid.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Garlic Simul Harvest!

Yeah! We're finally doing something at the same time. I harvested my backyard garlics, Inchelium Red, last week. I'm thrilled. I do have to note that the size of the bulb is directly related to how much water the plants received. This weekend I'll harvest the front yard garlics, Lorz Italian. That geographic separation was my most realistic design for keeping the types separate and known. Now, the challenge will be to keep them documented in storage!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Garlic and shallot harvest

 I finally got around to harvesting my shallots and garlic today.  The garlic is in our little shed, where it needs to "cure" for 1-2 months.  I planted 4 kinds but forgot to note which is which, so now they're all mixed up.  They all look the same, anyway.  I'm going to cut the bulblets and try planting them in the fall, although supposedly that only works for ophio garlic (whatever that is).  Can't hurt.

The shallots are still in the field, per my instructions, where they'll stay for several days and then to into the room next to the greenhouse, because they need to cure, also.  I've attempted to cover the bulbs somewhat with the tops to protect them from sunburn.  I'll take care of that when I get back from Seattle next Monday.
Shallots drying in the field

Sunny in the leeks

Kim, tutorial on doing garlic braids, please!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Heat Wave!

No one in Georgia could possibly remain skeptical about global warming after the weather we've had and are scheduled to keep having, no relief in sight.  Well, maybe my neighbor John, but that's another story.  High 90s for days on end, and humid?  Uh huh.  Of course all my cold weather plants have bolted - which doesn't keep me from eating them - and I'm watering my warm weather plants pretty much every day.  Had to fill the rain barrel with the hose because it ran dry.

The beans and zucchini are doing fine, for now.  But what is it with me and tomatoes?  I planted 3 full rows of tomatoes and I got 2 - 2! - seedlings.  (Maybe they know I don't really like them.)  I'm keeping a close eye on those 2 and still watering the rest of the bed in case there are some late bloomers.

2 tomato seedlings - sad

bean plants - looking good

zucchini plants - will have too many, as usual

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

State of the Garden Address

I wasn't sure I'd do a garden this year after my nearly complete and utter failure last year.  However, cold weather vegetables are easy to grow, even for me, so I planted lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and arugula.  Success!  With the pictures to prove it.  Plus the garlic, shallots, and leeks that I planted last fall are doing great as well.

Thus encouraged, I planted some warm weather plants including my perennial failure, tomatoes.  The beans and zucchini have already pushed up seedlings; the tomatoes, nothing so far.  I don't know why I try so hard with them, I don't even really like tomatoes very much.

I'm making an effort to walk down to the garden every single day to water and/or weed and/or harvest.  The daily contact makes a difference:  my garden is literally weed-free, we've had some wonderful salads and last night a pasta dish with arugula, and everything's weathered the current "drought" very well, especially considering that I only use shower warm-up water.

You know you've been in the south too long when you like...collard greens!  I LOVE collard greens.  They're going in in July, assuming we haven't sold the house by then (as if).

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Frost in April in Pasadena!

In the 29 years I've lived in Pasadena, we've had 1 or no frosts each winter. If we had a frost it would be in early January. This year we had two hard frosts in February destroying eggplant seedlings that I had put out. It is unprecedented. Now I learn today that we have another possible frost alert. The temperature high in Pasadena was in the sixties today and the snow level is supposed to drop to 3000 feet.

Now in New England I now the drill of frosts in the Fall but a new routine of dealing with killing frosts in the Spring is a whole new concept. Afterall in Pasadena, many plants survive through the winter with nary a scar: beets, chard, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, leeks, garlic, rutabaga and all herbs.

Having lost plants this February, I'm not taking any chances so I've covered the eggplant and also the tomatoes. See picture of Mark's old shirts clothes pinned to the towers to protect the tomatoes. It's colorful at least and good use of both the shirts and the towers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Camphor Leaves as Mulch - Experiment

In a sustainable ecology all waste must be used productively in another way. Here in Pasadena many streets have the camphor as the assigned tree for planting by the city in the meridian. Camphor trees are tall, broad-leaf and, surprisingly, evergreen and therefore always provide shade. Nice! This is achieved every spring as the new leaves sprout and push out last years leaves. In the bottom right picture you might be able to make out the slightly tan leaves in the canopies of the trees. Those are the leaves that have yet to fall. The light green leaves are the new ones. The gutter of the street shown to the right is evidence of the leaves that have fallen so far that week. Everyone rakes these leaves up and fills their huge green waste bins each week for 3 to 4 weeks every spring. The city then hauls them off as yard waste. I do believe they dump them in an area for composting though.

Now camphor is aromatic and the leaves contain this oil. If one mulches with these freshly fallen leaves growth underneath is inhibited. So this is good mulch to reduce weed growth on paths around the garden. However, given the volume of material produced just on my short block, I had to find a way to use them. Our Calif. Dept. of Agriculture Extension Agent says that we should use 4" of mulch throughout the vegetable garden to only have to water once every 3 weeks. Since this is an urban environment, it's no easy task to come up with a regular source of so much mulch volume without a truck or a business arrangement. Therefore I am motivated to explore constructive use of this mass of organic material that literally falls in my lap like clockwork every spring.

So, my plan is to rotate leaf harvests for 3 years before deploying in the garden. Our house lot is small and one side of the house has only a narrow space between our house and the neighbor's driveway. We grow eugenia hedges on that side leaving about 2.5' between the house and the hedge. The hedges have grown here for a few decades so the roots are deep and would be unaffected by surface deployment of camphor leaves. However, suppressing grass and other weeds in this space is a benefit. It's not easily mowed or maintained. And grass seeds are definitely not wanted in the veggie garden.

The top picture, though not very good, is where I've put the fresh harvest of leaves this year. The fourth picture is where I've spread out last year's leaves up to the trunk of the crape myrtle. The third year is to the north of the tree up to the black cat... He's not always there though. Then in the fourth year it should be safe to use the leaves as mulch. I may be overdoing it. But I can assure you there are so many leaves it's worth figuring something out to use them and it's good exercise to rake and move the material around.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Atlanta garden 2011

This year I'm cutting out the middle man, i.e., the greenhouse, and planting directly into the garden beds.  I've got one row each of butterhead lettuce, spinach, arugula, and Swiss chard.  My plan is to do successive plantings until I run out of seeds.

Also, I put several inches of compost directly on top of the bed without trying to mix it into the topsoil that's already there and planted directly into it.  That might be a mistake, but anyway that's what I did, from laziness, mostly, although I have a vague idea that the compost is very rich.  Well, I'm sure it is; my vague idea is actually that it might be too rich.

It was quite challenging, to say the least, to plant with Sunny.  She loves digging in the soft dirt, drinking from the watering can while I'm watering, and chasing the hoe and rake.  Challenging to the point where I finally had to put her inside to finish up, as it was getting quite dark.

I was pushing to do it today because it's supposed to rain tomorrow.  I hope not too hard - I'd hate for the seeds to get washed away.  Hmm, just thought of that...

The garlic and shallots look great!  And even my leeks seem to have survived the winter although they're awfully spindly.  Dominique's, whose leeks spent the winter in the greenhouse, are thriving much more.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Eggs at last

Mimique gifted us with her first egg the very day we returned from Brazil, on Jan. 25.  She's been pretty prolific since then, and even laid one with a double yolk.  I took a picture of it with my phone but since I haven't figured out how to transfer it, that'll have to wait for another time.

Recently Chipmunk has started laying as well, and to my surprise, she lays pale blue eggs!  Aren't they pretty?  Dominique has an egg for breakfast several times a week, and I made myself a small omelet once.  I still don't like eggs too much, but I'm trying to learn.

Free range chicken eggs were going for $6 a dozen this summer at the farmer's market, so we're finally starting to get some return on all that chicken feed.  Now if we can just keep them alive awhile...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bees, Blue Orchard

Today I put out my blue orchard bee house and some of the natal tubes from last year. I'm going to experiment with cycling this year. Every two weeks I'll put out some more hibernating bees with the intention that their pollinating season will extend into perhaps June or even later. I bought another house, so this year we'll have two houses by the end of the season.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Uh oh, garlic is coming up!

We had some hot (for winter) weather a few days ago and now my garlic is coming up.  Is this a problem if it freezes again?  Or is it normal?

Only time will tell.  At least something is growing, for a change.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Onions & Garlic

I finally got around to planting my shallots a couple of days ago.   It wasn't clear to me from the instructions if I was supposed to separate the bulbs into separate pieces or not, but I did.  If I understand correctly, it's just like planting tulips or any other bulb, i.e., they'll sit in the ground doing nothing until spring comes, then a miracle happens and up they grow.  However, the directions make it sound much more iffy than that.  Well, we'll see.

I planted the garlic a few weeks ago so I hope the occasional warm days we've had haven't fooled it into thinking that spring had come.  The weather has been crazy, fluctuating between 23 and 55 degrees F during the day and mostly freezing at night.  A couple of snow storms, too, rare enough in Atlanta to cause major road problems.  What's a farmer to do?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Leeky Garden

Undaunted by my overwhelming failure this summer, I have planted a bed of leeks that should be ready to harvest in the spring, if I understand correctly.  (Unlikely)  Happily, the day after I planted we had the first good rain in a long time.

I have also received my garlic and shallots and will be planting them soon as well.  November seems to be the right time for Georgia.  Which gives me time to get lots of good compost in the ground and then have it analyzed.  That's the plan, anyway.

I may be a lousy farmer (ok, I am a lousy farmer), but I make great compost.  Any future in that?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ft. Knox in Our Backyard

Yes, another post about chickens.  Did I mention my garden sucked wind this year?  4 itsy bitsy tomatoes, 3 of which stayed in our refrigerator and 1 of which actually got eaten.  By me, and it was darn good, too.  I think we got 3 or 4 zucchinis way back when, and everything else just withered and died.

Of course, that pretty much describes the chicken situation, too.  I sound flippant but it is actually heartbreaking to have one after another die.  The low point came when we lost Chiquita.  After that, we finally got serious about chicken yard security, and we have truly built a fortress in the back yard, complete with electric fence.  It takes about 15 minutes to put them away for the night, but honestly, the peace of mind is worth it.

No more wandering at will during the day, either.  They stay literally cooped up, unless we're working in the yard and can keep an eye out for hawks.

As Kim said, the overarching or philosophical lesson learned from all this is how truly difficult it is to grow your own food, whether it be animal or vegetable.  Not only is it hard physical labor, we have lost so much of the knowledge that was commonplace only a few generations ago.  I can state unequivocally that I would not be capable of the year-long experiment that Kingsolver did; I would quite literally die if I had to eat only what I grew.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blog Stats

Just added blog stats to our blog - a new feature that will show us how often our blog is viewed.

Kim, I wrote a post but I want to take a picture to go with it - I'll publish it tomorrow (sun's down for today).  Sorry I've been so remiss!  I'll be better, I promise!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Praying Mantis

This is the second very heavy with egg sack praying mantis we've seen in this last week. It's that time of year. We've had one lay her egg sack on the plum tree in back and this one is in the front yard. I like this silhouette picture of her. It reminds me of a Japanese brush painting and, I have to admit, I have the greatest empathy for her enlarged abdomen.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Salinas, CA Public Art - Farm Field Workers

Last weekend we made a mad dash to Monterey to view an Ansel Adams exhibit of museum quality prints Ansel himself made. The road trip took us through Salinas, CA, heart of the Californian farming community and, of course, home to John Steinbeck.

Along routes 101 and 68 we were taken by large cutout murals of field farm workers that could be clearly seen and appreciated from the highway. Upon returning home, I looked them up and found the artist's (John Cerney) website. There are number of mural themes though the 'Field Workers' struck us as both instructive and poignant regarding who and what labor brings food to the table around the country.

Check out the link below for the following:
Farmer & Irrigator-1995. The first of the 'giant' figures. 18 feet tall. Highway 68, Salinas, CA. Commissioned by Salinas grower Chris Bunn to pay tribute to the agricultural labor force. Two in a series of 10 total farm figures.

This website has more pictures and explanation:

Monday, September 27, 2010

'Catching Fire' - a book worth reading

Given the amount of time needed to raise food, store it properly, and then cook it, is it any wonder that the thousands of years of human endeavor have created such a wealth of culinary output worldwide. Such creativity is truly inspirational of what mankind can do. A new book last year, "Catching Fire," by anthropologist, Richard Wrangham, may provide the academic argument for the earthy sensual and intellectual moorings of homo sapiens (after h. erectus, of course). In other words, do not underestimate our core biological foundations in cooking (and raising etc.) food! Wrangham argues that as animals we are unique as the 'cooking' ape. In fact our whole anatomy and physiology is based on our ability to cook food to fuel our bodies.
See NY Times review:
Slate review:
Washington Post review:
Powell's books:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What are we learning?

Janet came out west from Atlanta to visit in Pasadena this last week. We discussed possible directions for this blog as we shared our experiences over the last year in raising food. There is no doubt that raising food from scratch is no trivial task particularly if one plans to depend one's own life and that of those you love on it. I easily spend 6-8 hrs. every weekend physically working in our 600 sq. ft. garden. That doesn't count planning, ordering seeds, and documenting. I don't get much time during the week. Fortunately the climate in southern California gives me considerable margin for error and negligence. Nothing dies by freezing! Plants will die for lack of water, of course. I also have a tolerant husband, the cook, who is with our program and will make do with almost any produce from the garden.
Lessons learned so far:
- Sow seeds at least 6 months in advance of expected harvest. In June I planted rutabaga seeds in the hopes of December harvest.
- Seedlings are a major challenge. How do the commercial nurseries do it? I sow seeds and they just don't thrive. Nurseries by contrast will have densely packed thriving 6"+ tall seedlings. The seedlings from the sown rutabaga seeds in June are now (75 days later) barely 2" tall. Plenty of sun and water... why IS that?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Yield in Pasadena

Southern California must be a gardener's dream climate. I was out of town for six weeks, and granted my husband dutifully watered the garden, it's amazing what I found in the garden wilderness I returned to. The zucchinis seem to have missed the mark but the spaghetti squash went wild. I've harvested almost 30! However, no canteloupe and only 3 acorn squash this year. That's a disappointment. Is there a method here? Hard to say. The summer (June-July) was cool by Pasadena standards. In fact, it seems that the zucchinis have finally awakened to their promise with the recent hot weather. I may have them producing into October. However, I do want to get the broccoli and cauliflower going. I did start seeds for rutabaga in late June and recently transplanted them. So there's hope for a December harvest. My shock today was to see that Seed Savers was all sold out of garlic! I have to find another source since I don't have enough to supply the kitchen AND the garden.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

World's Worst Farmer

Yes, that would be me.  My garden was a complete and utter disaster this year.  I'm not completely sure why, but I think I may have gotten complacent with all the rain we had in the spring.  It's possible that I forgot to water as regularly as I should have.  Still, it seemed as though everything was going pretty well, then suddenly everything died.  Example:  I had, like, 5 zucchinis.  Nobody ever has just 5 zucchinis; usually it's more like 500.  This is how bad my garden was.  I managed to kill my volunteer rhubarb, which breaks my heart, and I never got a single potato - and those suckers were expensive!  The basil did come through for me.  Good old basil.

Undaunted, or an incredibly slow learner, I have ordered garlic, leeks, and onions for the fall.  Apparently the leeks are on their way; the bulbs will ship at the end of September.  I'm hopeful that cooler weather will encourage me to be a little more active in the garden, and water from time to time.  Wish me luck; I'm going to need it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Raising Chickens Is Very Hard

It is sad to see my last post.  Since then, we lost all 3 of the younger chickens to racoons, first 1, then the other 2.  You think you're protecting them but they're incredibly vulnerable; you just can't think of all the ways they can be killed.

So we bought 4 more, because our older one, Chiquita, becomes quite weird when she's alone.  Within a week, she herself had actually killed one of the chicks.  We had kept them separated but they managed to find a loophole where we thought we had secured everything.  It's quite discouraging.

The good news is that the remaining 3 chicks are thriving, and Chiquita has started laying eggs.  Yay!!  It is the most amazing thing to peek into the nesting section of her coop and see a little brown egg sitting there.  I'm not sure I'll ever really get used to it.  Now I just have to learn to like eggs!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The "chicks"

Yes they're grown but to me they'll always be my chicks.  Just like my daughters.

Audrey III and friends

My garden has been taken over and largely destroyed by killer gourd vines.  I finally yanked them all out the other day but not before they overran everything that was trying to grow - which wasn't much, in fact.  Naturally the zucchini is growing apace; and the winter squash will be fine, I guess.  The peanuts died, the peas died, the beets didn't grow...corn is still coming up and it looks like the potatoes might do something yet.  Basil is great.  But not the bounty I was expecting, by a long shot.

In the upper garden, the tomato plants are getting very tall but very few flowers and so far no baby tomatoes.  I know we have crummy soil but I composted the heck out of it and if there's one thing I'm proud of, it's my compost.  So I don't know what the problem is.  Very discouraging; especially compared to Kim's perfect garden.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Garlic harvest

Mid June is the time to harvest soft-neck garlics that were planted in mid October in Pasadena. We're looking forward to cooking with them. We have 4 types purchased from Seed Savers. So, I found a video on how to braid garlics and each braid is one type and labeled. Maybe we'll be able to tell the difference by October and choose which ones to plant for next year. Also, at the rate Mark uses the garlic I think I'll have to find room for more next year. I planted about 50 cloves last year.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Recipes and gardens

Here's an hypothesis: If you grow your own food; you don't need recipes. Recently Mark cooked a dinner of new Russet potatoes (emphasis on the 'new'), dried Poblano peppers and white sage. It was great; all from our garden. The Russets were incredibly tasty and a real delight in texture. It occurred to me that who would have ever thought of this combination. And if we wrote it up as a recipe, there would be no way to purchase the items, or, if possible, it'd be very expensive. So, we cook what we grow and make it up as we go along. I think that's the key to home gardens and food. Creativity and experimentation and getting along with what you have is the key. It's doable and it can lead to totally new appreciation for what's possible.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Farmers Markets

May seems to be the opening month for farmers markets around Atlanta.  There are tons of them.  I myself have a booth at the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, selling my bags and cases.  Not exactly convenient but it's kind of fun.

The poor farmers don't have too much to offer yet - tiny amounts of lettuce and chard; a good selection of onions; and radishes are coming in.  A few beets.  I'm doing my best to support them, and it'll only get better as the season goes on.

My own garden is showing mixed results, as gardens tend to do, I guess.  Tomato plants, zucchini, peas, and peanuts are doing very well.  Carrots - zip.  Beets - kind of.  Potatoes - some beautiful plants but not as many as I would like to see.  Today I planted eggplant and bell peppers and I think that's all the planting I'm going to do before fall.

The chicks are still alive and well, growing apace.  No eggs though for at least 3 more months.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ohmigosh it's May

There have been squash blooms here and the tomatoes are also blooming. In fact, we've already eaten a few. I'm still getting seedlings started in a mad panic because the summer growing season is upon us and I feel unprepared. I did take a set of sprouting seeds of acorn squash out of the compost and replant them in pony packs. So now, I have about 30 vines ready to grow. My sister is going to take some for a school project in Malibu. Sometimes it seems so easy. Then I have seeds for poblano peppers and some eggplants that just can't seem to get going. I sowed them in February and they are now barely 1/2" tall. They get points for persistence... but goodness... what on earth is the problem? Of course, they are outside and it has been cool. Even recently the high was 65... not the best for growing. We're expecting the last of the broccoli and cauliflower. I've designed the summer garden trying to rotate crops so that high N feeders follow low N feeders and vice versa. It's not always so easy. It'll be squashes of various types, tomatoes, potatoes, and lettuce. The onions (that includes leeks, bunching onions and garlic) are maturing so I'm starting another set of seedlings.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Urban Chicken Coop Tour

With only 5 people, the tour was a little underwhelming.  But the folks who showed up were very nice.  One guy, a doctor, raises his own chicks and gives them away.  It's tempting to take some more, especially since he has the bantam silkies that Dominique likes.  But where would we put them.

All 4 of our girls are now in the coop day and night.  They've pretty much bonded as a flock, which is great.

Had a scare with an owl or a hawk the other day on the downstairs porch.  Fortunately I was out with them but only moments before I had been inside and they'd been out there by themselves.  I didn't think the raptors would come so close to the house.  Wrong.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Chicken coop tour

We are going to be on the Georgia Organics chicken coop tour this Saturday.  Why anyone would go around looking at other people's coops is a little beyond me, but then I ran into someone who's signed up and looking forward to it, so there you go.  Hope it's a nice day so the chicks can be out.

The older one is full-time in the coop now which is working well although when we had a heavy rain a few nights ago the nesting area got soaked.  The roosting area was fine.

The little chicks go out during the day when it's warm.  At first we had to keep them separated from the older one, but they seemed to have reached a sort of detente, except when they get too close to her food.  Normal.  She still seems to regard us as her flock but I hope once they're older and outside full-time she'll transfer her affiliation to them.  While still roosting on our arms, of course; it's so sweet.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chick picture

For some reason, even though I uploaded 3 pictures, only 1 is showing.

New chicks

So our new chicks came this past Tuesday.  Amazing how quickly one forgets how cute and little they are.  This time we have an Easter Egger, a Barred Plymouth Rock, and a mystery chick.  They said it was a Blue Andalusian but we looked at the pictures on their site and it clearly is not.  I think it's a Buff Orpington but I guess we'll be able to figure it out when she's older.

The big chick is full time in the coop now, which finally arrived.  The little chicks are still in the cardboard condo at night but spend most of the day in the enclosed lower area of the coop.  The big chick is suffering from severe sibling rivalry or maybe is just a natural bully; anyway, she has to be separated from them for the time being so she's in the chicken yard outside the coop.  All are fully enclosed and, we think, safe.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Black thumb?

I'm starting to think that I'd better leave the growing to my local farmers.  Of everything I've planted so far, only the tomatoes and the peas seem to be doing anything.  And of course my volunteer rhubarb.  Even my basil, which seeded itself last year, is letting me down.  Undaunted, this morning I planted a few more rows of beets and carrots, as well as a bed of zucchini and some corn.  Later today, the peanuts.  Of these, the only one that's sure-fire is the zucchini and it will go nuts.  How do they go from pickle-size to blimp overnight?

3 more chicks on the way and Dominique has built them an absolute fortress.  Will arrive possibly this week or next week for sure.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No more etsy coop link and here's why

I am furious with the guy I bought our chicken coop from.  Original delivery date was March 15; now says it will ship on April 16 and take 7-10 days to arrive.  This is the 3rd new date he's given us and I have absolutely no confidence that it will ship this Friday.  Furthermore, it's quite possible that had the coop been in the yard, the chicks might have been able to escape whatever it was that got in.  So I am holding  him partially responsible for the massacre.  He will be receiving some very negative feedback on his etsy site.

One chick left

I am unbearably sad to report that we are now down to one chick.  Something got into their newly-secured pen yesterday and destroyed both the dominiques.  Only the black jersey giant is left.  We are going to order more and keep trying; Happened yesterday and I'm still crying.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April in Pasadena

The nasturtiums are taking over! That's lavender in the foreground on the right and behind them are the tall purple irises in their annual glory.

The jasmine blooms are almost past and even the one lone asparagus that came up this year has already gone to fern. The others planted last year didn't make it. Peas are almost past too though the sweet peas have just started to bloom. Tomatoes are blooming and the citrus are almost done. It's great to see how many fruit have set. However, our plum didn't bloom very much at all again for the second year. We've got to figure out what the problem is.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Planting Has Begun

Spring has definitely sprung in Atlanta (hope these aren't famous last words).  The bulbs Dominique planted last fall are a-bloomin' and the trees are popping with color.

We in response have sprung into action in the garden.  I got busy in some of my beds last weekend and now have arugula, lettuce, carrots, beets, and shelling peas planted.  Plus 2 mystery plants; I think one of them might be spinach.  We have rhubarb coming up in one of the beds from last year which was a pleasant surprise.

My seed potatoes arrived so I've put them in the greenhouse to get "eyes."  Also in the greenhouse I have artichokes, 2 kinds of tomatoes, and basil.  I might have one tiny little asparagus plant or it might be a weed.  The peppers and melons did absolutely nothing, as usual.  I had a scare after transplanting the artichokes from the flats to pots, in that they all seemed to have died, but most of them have come back now.

The compost is amazing.  No excuse for not growing great stuff this year!  Which is kind of too bad, because I'm sure I'll need an excuse.

I have some other seeds I need to get started now:  carrots, some other things I can't remember, and peanuts!  Very excited about the peanuts.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Nasturtiums are blooming. They are great around roses and other plants prone to aphid infestation. Good for salads too! In So Cal they reseed themselves and there are so many I usually have to pull them up because they can block the sun for other plants.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Osmia 4 wks in

The BOBs, Blue Orchard Bees, are hard at work. After 4 weeks they've already complete 7 new tubes of larvae. Interestingly, for four so far, they cleaned out the natal tubes and are using them again. In addition the BOBs took over one of the O. californica tubes. Hmm... not sure how that will work out in the end. These bees only work for 6-8 weeks so you want them to work the blooms on the fruit trees. Our citrus have a very large number of blooms. Unfortunately, the plum tree isn't doing as well. The jasmine is blooming as are the tall, purple irises.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sustainable Pattie

Yesterday I met an amazing woman named Pattie Baker who writes the "Sustainable Pattie" blog here in Dunwoody. I wanted her to blog about WrapCycle so she came over to have a look. We really hit it off. She's a bundle of energy and into all things sustainable, organic, etc., and especially community gardening. She started a community garden in Dunwoody and we talked about starting one in Sandy Springs. She also recommended her CSA so I can finally get started on that.

I loved the write-up she did so I've included the link. I feel like I've really tapped into something important here in Atlanta (along with the racewalking, of course).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poultry and Plant Progress

Day 4 and the chicks are wildly exercising their wing muscles.  They all have feathers at the tips and I'm sure they'll be flying pretty soon.  Sarah arrived this morning and in the nick of time because I don't think they'll be cute very much longer.  At least not in that fluffy, helpless way.

Seedlings are starting to come up, despite the fact that I've lost the use of the greenhouse due to much-needed repair work.  The artichokes look really hardy, and I'm getting quite a few tomatoes and asparagus as well as basil.  The peppers and melons, though - nothing so far.

Could start direct seeding some things in the lower 40, like arugula, lettuce, cabbage, but it keeps raining so it's hard to get down to it.  Only 30% chance today so maybe I'll get to it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

BOBs are Awake!

My BOBs are waking up! It's so exciting and indeed they are starting to fly around. I introduced Mark to these new looking bees or rather they introduced themselves to him by landing on him! As you can see from the first picture (Sorry, not the best picture) there's more mud debris on the shelf. So, the little bees are making their way out. The mud plugs are quite dry. It must take some effort to dig through. There's a post somewhere on the web describing how bees in the back of the tunnel bite or nip their next up neighbor to get going.

They've arrived!

Just as I resigned myself to 3 days of sitting upstairs, barely able take a bathroom break for fear of missing the post, there was a knock on the door.  And there they were:  four of the most adorable chicks I ever saw.  Black, all 4 of them, although 2 have cream-colored patches on them.  I assume those are the Dominiques since they will be black and white, but I don't really know.

None of them was "pasted up" (thank God), much less dead.  First hurdle overcome.  I put them in their new digs unde the infrared lamp and they immediately started exploring.  They found the water right away and knew just what to do.  It took quite a bit longer for the food.  I'm sure they would have found it eventually on their own but I tried to help them along.

Every so often one would stand still then fall over.  I was very alarmed the first couple of times, until I realized that they were falling asleep!  Poor babies; it's been a tough couple of days for them.  They seem warm enough, and the know how to eat and drink, so I felt safe to post their pictures on Facebook and here.  But now I have to go back down - who knows what could happen without my hovering?